main index




Topical Tropes

Other Categories

TV Tropes Org
Headscratchers: Total Recall (2012)
  • In the original film, Cohaagen and Hauser had to go through the whole elaborate triple agent ruse because the leader of the resistance was a psychic with mind-reading abilities. Matthias has no such abilities in this version, so why couldn't Hauser just have acted his way into the resistance like a normal double agent? Being "the best Federation spy ever", there should have been good reason to think he could have done it without overwriting his memories with a fake personality.
    • Because Hauser wasn't faking defection - they made a "backup" before sending him in just in case, and he did in fact decide to side with the Resistance. He starts as a double agent, and then just turns traitor.
      • Except, if that was the case, why doesn't original Hauser know that the Synth killcode was just a ruse? Also, Cohaagen seems to imply the whole hidden trojan horse tracking program was Hauser's idea.
      • The leader may not be a psychic but they do have memory scanning technology. It's possible they threw him though one of those little reader chairs off screen and if he hadn't belived he had turned traitor he would have been blown.
      • So...Hauser was a government agent who came up with an idea of going deep-cover into the Resistance. His mind is backed up and he's Rekalled into being a traitor. He runs off, joins the resistance, becomes their number two man. Eventually, he's captured (and not killed, remarkably enough) and then Rekalled again into an everyman with a trojan horse in his head. Eventually, he breaks out of his prison and makes his way back to the Resistance... So he was a Rekalled Rekall about to be Rekalled at the beginning of the film... right?
      • Was he the Number Two man? He revamped the Resistance, but he hadn't ever met Matthias. A lot of other people knew where Matthias was including Melina, but Hauser specifically states he never met Matthias, so that speaks more to him being Head Tactician sending plans up the ranks rather than being the Number Two guy. Number Two has usually met Number One vs. all the other underlings knowing where he is, but Quaid/Hauser hadn't.
      • Rekallception? (come on someone had to say it)
    • Simplify the explanation. They were worried about Hauser's loyalty enough that they made a loyal backup of his mind. Thus they told him there was a killcode when there wasn't, just in case.
  • The only thing bad about the world outside Britain and the Colony is that if you breathe it you die. If the Fall is destroyed, just send a robot army around the world to take over. The robots won't care.
    • Though a good chunk of them were destroyed. Probably not all of them were on the fall but enough to make an invasion very risky now that the colony is currently antsy about their neighbors on the other side of the planet.
    • The dialogue seems to indicate that all of the synths that were not in active service were onboard.
      • Added to the fact that the colony is an island. The only way to get there is through the Fall. To build a new elevator, you need cooperation on both sides, so if the Colony guards the entrance to the Fall well, then they can prevent occupation. Since no one can actually leave island and they only travel around the Channel area in the UFB, there probably aren't any large boats to get to the colony. You could send a robot army, but can you teach them to adapt to seafaring conditions?
    • Also the leader who planned and wanted the invasion is dead(using false flag operations.) Britian might be a little busy trying to get new leadership in place and not really in favor of war and bloodshed.
      • True. And the original plan of "kill everyone on an entire continent so all the Brits can have more living space" seems less logical than "Give everyone condoms and fine them heavily for having children." But then, this movie is focused much more on action and philosophy than world-building.
  • Is anyone else disappointed that no one in the colony had an Australian accent? They are in the middle of Australia for crying out loud.
    • Looking at the sheer number of languages present, its clear a good chunk of the world relocated to Australia, so either accent was drowned out, or you just don't meet any native Australians in the movie.
    • I don't think that question counts as a headscratcher.
  • Why did the chemical weapons in the beginning blurb work the way they did? There are a dozen sub-questions to this, such as who was fighting, what was the war about, what are those little pinpricks of light around the world, how many people died, and why just some areas were hit except for others, but specifically, why is it that just two specific places in the world are 100% habitable, and wind currents aren't leading to shifting situations where some are habitable and some aren't. So really, the main question here is this- In a world where deadly chemicals swirl around the Earth, why are the United Kingdom, Britany, and Australia the only places people can live without masks, and why do they stay that way?
    • This troper is also confused by this, especially as Great Britain sits right on the gulf stream, a current of warm air traveling from South America, which accounts for the temperate climate at such a high lattitude. At the very least most of the south of England would be un-inhabitable.
  • Today, the UK and Australia are both relatively prosperous first-world nations. Why, in this world, as UK the prosperous gleaming cityskape of the future, and Australia the Third-World refugee camp?
    • The part of Australia we see in the movie is mostly on the western interior which is barely developed today so its possible that the east coast of Australia is much nicer and that the rest of the colony is only slummy because people had to move there very hastily when the rest of the planets livable space went kaput.
  • Why aren't the rest of the islands of the world heavily populated?
    • Wiped out in the chemical wars.
  • Why isn't there a mass exodus to space?
    • Because mass-exodi into space are hard to pull off and pointless if you don't have a viable place to go?
      • Space IS the place to go. Check it: What is it that the people in the movie value? Living space. They seem to have abundant energy and food. In 2081: A Hopeful View of the Human Future, Gerard K. O'Neill points out that space colonies could be pretty much paradise - constant sunlight, gravity around the edges, no bugs, no inclement weather. And what do you need to build space colonies? Energy, metal, and soil, in a word. Energy to get into space, whether it be chemical energy of rockets, electrical energy for space elevators, or nuclear energy for more exotic launches. Metal to make the superstructure of the colony. And soil to make greenhouses to feed the colony. The world of Total Recall doesn't appear to be missing any of that (oddly enough, considering how much of the world is uninhabitable) and as for a launch site, I'm sure a contaminated section or part of the Australian outback would work. After that, the only limit to growth is the amount of energy, metal, and soil that can be put towards space colonies. So, maybe there is some reason they can't build colonies in space (maybe Australia's full, and the chemicals hanging around most of the Earth are inflammable?) but it seems awful strange that a society running out of space wouldn't consider moving some of its people to outer space.
      • If starting a space colony were as easy as you make it sound I'm pretty sure we would have done it already.
  • So, if they were running out of living space, why did no-one consider perhaps building underground? That would be a far less daunting feat of engineering than building a tunnel that runs through the entire damn planet?!
    • Imagine trying to explain to a group of people that due to a lack of space to build (apparently UP was out of the question), you tell them that they will have to live underground. This would not go over well, even if explained logically. Every person would come up with a reason as to why they should get an above-ground dwelling. People can clearly see the sky, but you are telling them they will have to live Fallout-style? Again, this would not go over well.
    • Or even more obvious, if no-one can survive in the chemically affected areas because the air is unbreathable, build domed cities?
      • The resources to maintain such a thing would be way more enormous than the output. They have land where this isn't required. Who would want to waste resources to make an area liveable that would require constant support from back home?
    • Maybe they ran out of glass too? But considering Britain's many sky scrapers, that doesn't seem to be the case.
      • I really don't think you'd want to build your city dome out of actual glass, considering that the first time there was a really bad hailstorm not only would it start raining glass on the city all the poison gas necessitating the dome would start leaking in.
  • How is anyone, especially the people in Britain, able to achieve such a comfortable existence in a world largely uninhabitable? China owns most of the world's rare earth minerals, and Africa has the largest supply of gold and diamonds. Unless there are lots of people flying far outside the colony to mines, it doesn't make sense that Britain doesn't seem to be short of any minerals or materials at all.
    • It's possible that there are non-combat versions of the synths used for mining and other operations in hazardous areas.
  • Why don't people fly around the world up and down to the Colony? It takes easily a day in modern jet planes, but why not consider to keep it as a lower-class means of transport?
    • Maybe the gas is actually extremely flammable, and the slightest spark will set the atmosphere on fire, rendering the rest of the world uninhabitable?
    • Resources. The Fall seemed to not take much in the way of energy to use, while planes would burn thousands of gallons of gas (probably very rare now). No one would use such a limited resource just so lower class citizens could get to work.
    • Also Rule of Cool. I mean, a train through the earth's core? Neat!
      • The lower-class people probably can't afford to travel to the other area for reasons other than work and for commuting why would they take hours on end to travel instead of a reasonably short trip through the core? Besides, what reason would anyone have for going to the other area outside of work? The Colony is too much of a dump for people in Britain to go to and people in the Colony are too poor to move or vacation.
    • Where would you vacation?
  • Why do the chemicals that make most of the world uninhabitable seem to just stay in one place, rather than being blown around, making certain sections more or less uninhabitable in turn? If there were a chemical attack, it seems more realistic for the survivors to become nomads rather than form large, concentrated, permanent settlements.
    • Possibly the chemicals have changed the weather patterns.
    • Possibly it's not entirely atmospheric. It may have leached into the ground and that's what's actually radiating the poison gasses. There may be "intermediate zones" where the gasses are thus only blown occasionally by the weather, but no one would want to live there because the first good storm and your whole family dies.
  • The Synth assembly line is somewhat superfluously manned by humans. Are they really needed? One or two robot arms could do the same job.
    • Robots building robots. How many times has this been shown to a terrible idea?
    • We Will Use Manual Labor in the Future. And goodness knows, with so many people, there's no shortage of manual labor.
    • There may be laws against it, specifically to keep too many people from being put out of jobs. Also depending on the sheer amount of labor, someone might have crunched the numbers and found out it was actually cheaper in the long run to hire a bunch of underpaid Colony workers than develop, build, and maintain the necessary building robots (who would, after all, still need someone to build them first).
  • From the London landmarks we see, Westminster is firmly within the habitable portion of Britain, whereas the area around the BT Tower is an unlivable hellhole of poisonous gas. The distance between the two is all of about two miles, so what exactly is keeping the clean zone gas-free?
  • The whole concept of the Fall is wonky. Leaving aside the impossible physics, just boring such a tunnel would have been the most expensive undertaking ever made by mankind by several orders of magnitude, and the energy needed for the journey can't come cheaply either. It's nice to go from one side of the world to the other in 15 minutes, but there is no situation where this particular transit method would be economically feasible, let alone profitable. Just making a round-the-world straight-line train track would be much, much cheaper; sure, it'd take a lot longer to do the trip, but you wouldn't bankrupt the human race to achieve it.
    • In theory: once built it requires no actual energy input, momentum flings the thing back out. So actually it would be the cheapest and fastest mode of travel ever. I'm also guessing they use geothermal heat as a source of energy so the project would paid for itself eventually.
  • Unlike the original, this movie isn't set on Mars. So for what logical reason is there a three-breasted woman, except as an blatant reminder that yes, this is supposed to be Total Recall?
    • Because Quaid's going through the equivalent of a red-light district, and prostitutes like to do things to make themselves stand out and attract customers.
    • It seems people of the future are desirous of exotic things. Presumably the extra-breast was done via cosmetic surgery.
    • Radiation?
  • A big deal is made of the overpopulation in the United Federation of Britain. So why do they hire manual laborers who have to commute from the other side of the planet?
    • Because the people from the Colony will work for less, and their employers often feel less bad if they're injured, overworked, or denied proper compensation than if they were locals, and because the British have been taught from childhood that they're "too good" for those sorts of jobs. The same reason most people hire illegal immigrants even with a high unemployment rate of natives.
  • One of the only things I find truly unbelievable about this movie is Quaid and Lori referring to their apartment as if it was some little closet barely big enough for a single bed and a toilet, instead of a fairly spacious and awesome area that looks like it was designed by a well-known architect. I mean, I get that Hollywood is often out of touch with common people's housing, but c'mon.
  • The biggest headscratcher of all has to be, why do I care that the big bad wants to invade the 'colony' in the first place? Nothing is done to make the colony sympathetic in any way, besides the fact the nominal 'hero' of the piece lives there(and even that doesn't help). After this troper watched a lot of fisticuffs, loud car chases and some other stuff I forget, the movie reminded me I was supposed to be rooting for Quaid because of the planned invasion-I still wasn't able to care whether he invaded or not. The colony is oppressed didnt work since it really didn't seem all the different from Britain except they had nicer teeth and perfect hair in the Federation.
    • Well, most people automatically think that an armed force marching in and slaughtering a bunch of people because they want their stuff is bad. They don't really need to be given a "reason" to not want to see a bunch of people who didn't do anything mowed down so that other people can move into their apartments. Generally asking an entire country's population "Do you have a particularly good reason we shouldn't herd you all into gas chambers so we can take what you own?" is an indicator of severe mental and moral defect.
      • Nice ad-hom there with no-so-subtle 'Hitler comparison' thrown in for good measure. Well played!. But leaving that tasteless implication aside, In-Universe, the Big-Bad doesnt overtly state hes going to stage a massacre of 10, 100s? of millions of people, and really provides no real justification besides wanting land which is vaguely alluded to, thus we have no reason to 'care' if he does, because he tells us very little. Its even worse when we see during the movie, the Big Damn Hero takes a very short trip to a contaminated area literally within sight of the pristine high-rises of the UFB. Now, since Cohaagen has access to a vast bunch of robo-soliders, would it not have been much cheaper, (and easier) to re-purpose, or build those robots as decontamination-bots instead and reclaim the space? That is a like a several minute ride away? Rather than a risky and expensive invasion of an area on the opposite side of the earth and requires a trip through the Earths core. Either way, the original point still stands. The movies makes zero attempt to create any sort of attachment to the 'colony' nor does the Big Bads strategy make a whole lot of sense either. All we see of the 'Colony' is a VR playground for people wanting to escape reality, a lot of hookers and street thugs, and lots of trash. Not so much as a cute kid to justify Hausers heel-faced turn.
    • Why does the UFB even need to invade the Colony when they already seem to control it with their soldiers everywhere? Only at the very ending did you see actual Colony goverment employees and soldiers, and before that the UFB already seems to have free reign and thus making any invasion pointless.
      • Because they wanted to level the place, from what I remember. It was 'found' that the colonies where supporting the resistance, and that would mean that they were actively against the UFB, if true. I'm guessing Cohaagen was basically going to declare war, destroy the Colony and everyone in it, then expand the UFB into the space the colony used to be.
Total Recall (1990)Headscratchers/FilmTower Of Terror

TV Tropes by TV Tropes Foundation, LLC is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.
Permissions beyond the scope of this license may be available from
Privacy Policy